Boer War hero’s haunting photos unearthed showing slain enemies, a British serviceman’s funeral and troops among the rubble
Incredible pictures have been unearthed in Derbyshire more than a century after the war’s end
The never-before-seen pictures, including photographs of bodies on the battlefield, were discovered in a time capsule created by Robert Oliver. They also show the funeral of a British serviceman and a Boer War dog.
Mr Oliver fought in the conflict, which started in 1899 and ended in 1902, and was awarded the Queens medal for South Africa after fighting in Cape Colony, the Orange Free State, the Transvaal and South Africa in 1901 and 1902.
After leaving the army he moved to Staffordshire where he joined the county’s police force.
His capsule of memorabilia, which was discovered in a house in Derby by auctioneer Charles Hanson, also includes medals, hats and gloves.
Mr Oliver’s collection forms part of a Militaria sale, which will be held on July 25 and could fetch up to £1,000.
Mr Hanson said: “The collection is quite remarkable since it contains two pairs of original kid gloves, spurs, an ammunition bandolier, caps and hats, Queens and Kings South African medals.
“It also contains a glazed portrait of Robert Oliver, a photo album of unpublished personal photos of the war, a powder flask, cap badges, an original South African feathered headdress, a cartridge belt and other items.
“It really is quite an archive. We know from the family that Robert Oliver was quite a rogue in his youth. At the age of 16, he ran away, ending up on a ship to Canada where he found work as a lumberjack.
“He later joined Staffordshire Police and our client’s memory of him was that he was funny but firm and strict. Later in life he became a landlord, owning the Devonshire pub in Hartington.
“The photographs, never seen publicly before, comprise amazing images of a war which took a horrific number of lives.
“They include pictures of a Boer War dog, an observation balloon at Ladysmith and General Buller.
“There are also images of Boers and their homes, together with graphic images recording the harsh reality, and true horror, of war – something the Victorian press did not portray at the time, as the British Empire was deemed undefeatable.
“Britain went into the Boer War over confident and under prepared. The Boers were well armed and these guerrilla fighters carried out surprise attacks on the British, as, without uniforms, they blended easily into the farmlands which also provided hiding places for supplies and horses.
“The archive, which is almost 120 years old, provides a fascinating record of these battles. Lasting two years and eight months, the Boer War resulted in tens of thousands of deaths, with 22,000 British lives lost.
“Although the collection has a guide price of £400 to £600, we think it may make up to £1,000. The images, objects, ephemera, uniform and equipment really highlight the difficulties of war carried out long before technology came to the fore.”